Members of parliament backing President Mohamed Waheed Hassan have called on the state to withdraw the country’s membership from the Commonwealth, during a debate on a resolution forwarded today.
The resolution that sparked the debate was forwarded by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim ‘Bonda’ Rasheed, “condemning” the current government’s failure to adhere to the calls of Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) concluding statement on the Maldives, notably the call for early presidential elections in 2012.
The CMAG statement also noted that it will consider “further and stronger measures” against the Maldives unless the composition of its Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) was revised in the next four weeks.
Withdrawing Commonwealth membership
Speaking in the debate, Dhivehi Qaumee Party MP Riyaz Rasheed called for the Maldives to withdraw membership from the Commonwealth “for now”.
“We don’t want to, but there is no reason to have international relations with a group like this, who don’t even know to ensure justice,” he said. “I propose to disassociate ourselves from the Commonwealth for now,” The MP said.
MP Rasheed has been highly critical of the Commonwealth and also Queen Elizabeth, who is the ceremonial head of the Commonwealth.
During a diatribe on DhiTV in March, he argued that the British public had funded the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in return for the establishment of churches in the Maldives, and also alleged that the UK hated the Maldives for gaining its independence.
Rasheed went onto criticise Queen Elizabeth stating, “After 50 years, the English Queen, she is physically challenged. But she is still the Queen, and if she wants she can remove the Prime Minister. Where is democracy? Where is democracy? That is not a democracy.”
Also speaking in the debate, MP Muththalib from the government-allied and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party, said that international organisations should ensure that their calls fitted with the constitution of the country and Islamic virtue.”
“CMAG should not be a weapon used to destroy the religion [Islam] of this country. The United Nations and all the other international organisations including the United States and India have accepted this government, “ he claimed.
“I do not believe CMAG has any right to demand our country hold early elections. Also, we should consider those [countries] that do things for us,” he added.
Muththalib said he would fully support the Maldives’ withdrawal from the Commonwealth if the government of President Waheed Hassan felt it was in the best interests of the county.
“If the current government feels that disaffiliating with CMAG or the Commonwealth is what is best for this country, I am in full support for this Majlis to pass such a motion,” he reiterated.
Deputy Parliamentary Group leader of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Ilham Mohamed, stated that there were no stipulations in the Constitution calling for an early election, and that one could only be held after amending the constitution.
He argued that that the Maldives should “immediately” withdraw its membership with the Commonwealth.
“I am saying this very clearly. I call on President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who is in charge of this state, to carry out what ever necessary measures that needs to be taken to disaffiliate from the Commonwealth. We are ready to part with Commonwealth,” MP Mohamed said.
MP Mohamed sent a warning to the current government stating that the the government decides to hold early elections, his party would withdraw its support to the government.
“Elections will be held on 2013. Or else we won’t be supporting the government. [No one] can hold an election before 2013. I am saying it very clearly. Be it Commonwealth or any other country that calls for it, no one can hold an early election,” he said.
MDP MPs argued that the government should adhere to the calls of CMAG and that early elections should be held in 2012.
The opposition MPs also expressed concern that an inter-governmental organisation such as the Commonwealth had said that it would consider taking action against the Maldives.
Speaking in the debate, MDP MP Eva Abdulla, who was recently elected to the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU)’s standing committee on Women Parliamentarians, stated that CMAG did not represent the foreign ministers of just nine countries but rather the entire 54 countries of the Commonwealth.
MP Abdulla also stated that when government officials said that the members of CMAG did not even know the “skin colour” of the Maldivians, such a statement was also directed at individuals such as the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh.
“When we make such statements we are not harassing the Ministers, but our own peaceful relations with neighboring countries,” she said.
She also reiterated that if the Commonwealth suspended the Maldives, it would have a great impact on the ordinary citizens of the country.
MDP MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa, of the Kulhudhuffushi North constituency, said that the Maldivian people had come to a “fork in the road” over the issue of early elections. He also stressed on the importance of adhering to the calls of Commonwealth.
“We don’t have the capacity to stand up against international bodies such as the Commonwealth, ASEAN and the SAARC. If we stay ignorant [of the calls of Commonwealth] in our greed for power, the ordinary citizens of this country will suffer,” Ghafoor said.
MDP MP Mohamed Riyaz during the debate expressed concern that some parliamentarians were accusing the Commonwealth of trying to destroy the Islamic faith of the Maldives. He also expressed concerns about possible impending Commonwealth action against the Maldives.
Earlier, President Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that although the government was not currently seeking to reassess its Commonwealth membership, it was concerned over the language in the CMAG statement.
“We condemn the language used and the foreign minister has conveyed this as well,” he said. “If this language continues, we will look to consider our position [in the Commonwealth],” said Riza at the time.